Illustration by Lauren Adams | Assistant Art Director

Brothers and Sisters

Published September 28, 2022

Recruitment reveals the differing worlds of sororities and fraternities

By Alex Imwalle | Investigative Editor

Over 100 envelopes sit in each seat of a still room, patiently waiting to be pried open. Atop each envelope sits one young woman, eager to commence the prying.

The contents of each envelope determine the outcome of each individual's college experience, simply with an arrangement of two or three Greek letters. This is the image of Bid Day: the pinnacle of the Women's Panhellenic Association recruitment at Ohio University.

"I was feeling very nervous going into it," Emma Fink, a newly initiated member of Delta Zeta, said. "I opened up that envelope and I was like, OK, this is it. That's where I'm supposed to be.'"

Though WPA recruitment is the most well-known Greek recruitment process on campus, WPA is just one of four national Greek organizations with chapters at OU. Just as each organization varies in its purpose and goals, they have adopted unique recruitment strategies and schedules that appeal to their target audience.

In the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, the potential new members, or PNMs, finish the recruitment process with a culmination of the week's events summed up by a bid from a nationally-recognized WPA chapter.

Still, WPA recruitment requires a long and demanding journey before arriving at the fairy tale ending that is Bid Day.

Fink, a freshman studying integrated language arts, was one of the many freshmen who set out to find her "glass slipper" through WPA.

As the rest of her family moved to North Carolina shortly before she moved into the dorms, Fink said she felt lonely and needed a support system during her first semester on campus. This led her to see what WPA had to offer.

"[I thought] it would just be a really good way to make friends, and it's a more homey environment than a dorm," Fink said. "I was like 'wow, this is definitely what I'm looking for." Though exploring the different chapters was a fulfilling experience for Fink and her peers, it undoubtedly required stamina, determination, and a $50 recruitment fee.

The first intense day of WPA Recruitment at OU kicked off Saturday, Sept. 10, as the PNMs were split into around 20 groups of 40 to travel collectively to each house, Fink said. The groups were led by their own Rho Gammas: representatives from different chapters who help guide the Panhellenic recruitment process.

The week only got more engaging from there.

"The first day, you're up at the College Green at 8:45 a.m., and I didn't get home until 10:30 p.m.," Fink said. "You go to all 10 chapters for welcome day, and you talk to a bunch of girls in the houses. You get a couple breaks here and there, but for the most part, it's just go go, go, go go."

Not only does every day require a higher level of formality in its dress code, but after each day, PNMs are asked to rank the chapters and submit the rankings to each house in preparation for chapter invitations the following day.

"Second day, you actually don't get your houses back until you are on the College Green that morning," Fink said. "It can be a hard experience just because if you're disappointed about not getting a house, you're kind of in a public setting."

That Sunday, each chapter only invites around 20 PNMs back to visit the house and focus more on its philanthropic work. Though it is only the second day, each chapter has the day scheduled to a tee.

"We have to line up in alphabetical order outside of every house, and you have to be 15 minutes beforehand," Fink said. "There's like this whole knocking process. It's very crazy."

Additionally, group numbers were cut in half from the previous day of recruitment, Fink said.

"It consistently got smaller and smaller," Fink said. "Not only are houses getting more selective, but also, a lot of girls dropped because the process is just that taxing."

Fink said that the PNM's options are further limited by the following Friday, as they are only invited back to a maximum of five houses to discuss the sisterhood and relationships within each chapter.

As the PNMs adjust their rankings and each chapter narrows down its prospects, they find themselves on the eve of Bid Day. The Saturday before the grand finale is known as Preference Day, giving the PNMs, now dressed fully in formal attire, one last chance to visit their top two WPA chapters and rank them accordingly.

Fink said she saw Preference Day as a test run of each sorority. She said she had many deep conversations with the women from each chapter, and it was a way to see what chapter fit her best before making her final decision.

However, the individual chapters have the most important decisions to make on preference night: who makes the final cut.

Before the final Bid Day announcement, PNMs must sign a legally binding document stating that they will accept a bid from either of their final two sororities if offered, Fink said.

After recruitment had finally wrapped up, Fink said she couldn't have been happier with where she ended up. However, she said there were times she was unsure about the process, but her Rho Gammas were always there to help her.

"I trusted the process, and I think that was a smart decision for me, but I definitely can understand why some girls just can't do that," Fink said. "The process, while it is very invasive, … it really takes that much to truly find where you belong."

Fink said the extreme time commitment was worth it because it creates better relationships, even if it means less freedom exists in their schedules.

"[WPA recruitment is] so much more intense than what the men in frats go through, but I think that it's just a more personal connection," Fink said. "It makes sense that we go through a longer process because it's like a very personalized thing."

A week before WPA began its recruitment, the Interfraternity Council at OU held its recruitment week. The lesser known recruitment week began on Monday, Sept. 5, as chapters hosted individual events open to anyone interested in fraternity life on campus.

Jake Adwar, a sophomore studying sports management and marketing, serves as the recruitment chairman of Alpha Epsilon Pi. He said his chapter, along with the other 10 IFC chapters on campus, hosted events such as cookouts, house tours, field days and more.

The schedule is more casual than the strict schedule WPA is required to follow, but Adwar said the laid-back atmosphere only helps build genuine connections with anyone who wants to stop by for the events.

"You get to really understand, bond with the people who you're trying to recruit," Adwar said. "It gives them a better say on whether they want to join that chapter."

Adwar said the biggest difference between IFC recruitment and WPA is that within IFC, each fraternity conducts their own recruitment week events and schedule.

"We get the freedom to kind of recruit however we want," Adwar said. "It's not where we have to do the exact same thing as all the other chapters."

Additionally, he said fraternities in IFC are tasked with going out and campaigning for their fraternity rather than simply receiving hundreds of PNMs at their doorstep like the WPA chapters.

"I had to go out and find all the guys," Adwar said. "I had to go talk to every single one of them, get their phone numbers, text them throughout the day, and just really become their friend and somebody that they can trust."

The timing of IFC recruitment also caused some extra difficulty in breaking freshmen out of their shells.

"Rush is usually weeks four or five, and this year was week three," Adwar said. "The turnouts were great themselves, but they weren't what they could have been."

Adwar said that because of this, Alpha Epsilon Pi, along with the other chapters, has had to come up with creative ways to get PNMs in the door.

"We had to do a little thing called 'dorm storming,'" Adwar said. "That's where I printed out probably 700 rush flyers and just pretty much slid them under all the doors in some buildings. It's definitely a grind."

Thanks to the "dorm storming" tactic in tandem with social media exposure, Adwar said Alpha Epsilon Pi was able to attract the attention of around 30 PNMs per event.

After successfully hosting recruitment events throughout the week, Adwar said his IFC chapters begin their invitation-only interviews. After an in-chapter discussion on the invited PNMs, IFC's Bid Day comes Friday, Sept. 9., capping off recruitment for the semester.

"If a PNM has received the bid, then they'll get invited and we'll send them a time, location, the attire to wear," Adwar said.

After reporting their bids to the school over the ensuing weekend, IFC chapters and their new members have officially completed the recruitment process.

Christianne Medrano Graham, the director of Sorority and Fraternity Life at OU, said the IFC and WPA's vastly different recruitment styles result from how the chapters and organizations were formed.

WPA at OU operates through the National Panhellenic Conference, which consists of 26 national organizations that all conform to the rules of the NPC, Medrano Graham said.

"They operate under the manual of information which has unanimous agreements," Medrano Graham said. "Imagine trying to get 26 women's organizations to agree on something."

Consequently, WPA has remained strict in its recruitment process on a national level to keep uniformity amongst organizations and chapters across the country.

Medrano Graham, conversely, said the current IFC OU chapters were originally formed under the North American Interfraternity Conference, which fostered a very loose recruitment structure that varied from chapter to chapter.

However, because of the flexible intake structure, many IFC chapters on campus have banded together to put on joint events and tablings to show what fraternity life at OU has to offer, Medrano Graham said.

She also said many other universities' IFC chapters carry out a more formal intake process similar to that of WPA, as it is the decision of the interfraternity council of each university.

"We have a very loose structure," Medrano Graham said. "I think that they've kind of learned that maybe that's not the best way, maybe they want to move towards a more semi-structured recruitment process, but that's still up in the air on how it's going to be in the future."

Throughout her time working in the office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, Medrano Graham said she has talked to many students who have said the WPA recruitment process, specifically, was not right for them.

"That's when we have the conversation of, 'WPA is not the only council that has sororities,'" Medrano Graham said. "If this is not your cup of tea, we have these other sororities that do intake differently."

The other organizations Medrano Graham referred to are the National Pan-Hellenic Council, a historically Black organization, and the Multicultural Greek Council.

The organizations often provide comfort to students, Medrano Graham said, because they are smaller in size and offer a unique intake process, unlike the WPA or IFC.

Though representatives of NPHC chapters at OU either declined or did not respond to comment requests, Maribel Antunez-Uriostegui, a senior studying political science, is the president of Alpha Psi Lambda, a co-ed Latin-oriented MGC chapter on campus. She said the MGC recruitment is open to anyone on campus.

"We are not Latino exclusive," Antunez-Uriostegui said. "Anyone that is interested in Latino culture is more than welcome to join and we will never discriminate against anyone that isn't of Latino heritage.

Antunez-Uriostegui said Alpha Psi Lambda keeps its new member intake process fresh by hosting one recruitment event per week throughout the first half of the semester before beginning the application and interview process that occurs later.

"It's essentially a semester-long process as opposed to rush where it's a one week thing and then you're in or you're not," Antunez-Uriostegui said. "The recruitment process is six weeks, but from there we have the membership intake process which can range depending on the semester."

Whether it is going to football games, Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration or just hanging out, the semester-long intake format allows for the relatively small organization to host tight-knit recruitment events that both PNMs and the current members can keep up with.

Though other chapters in the NPHC and MGC may only conduct an intake process as needed once a year, Antunez-Uriostegui said Alpha Psi Lambda is always recruiting new members throughout every semester.

With the number of councils, chapters and recruitment styles, Medrano Graham believes there is a place for anyone in Greek life. There is no right way to navigate fraternities and sororities on campus; the most important thing is bettering yourself and the people around you through a common organization.

"Fraternity and Sorority life gets a bad rap because of the stereotypes," Medrano Graham said. "I believe in the mission and the values that our organizations hold, and if we could use those values and those powers for good, man, we could change the world."

AUTHOR: Alex Imwalle
EDITOR: Hannah Campbell